Test anxiety affects everyone in the system: student, teacher, administrator. Its affects are far reaching for the student as tests can affects life choices. Teachers are deemed effective or ineffective based on the outcome of tests. And much of an administrators job performance evaluation may be based on test performance. We are all affected by tests, and if something like test anxiety can affect test results, we need to pay attention. A 12% deviation in scores…I think we need to pay close attention!
Everyone experiences some anxiety. But anxiety at a higher level can affect the way anyone performs - particularly on test. It is now believed that OVER 40% of students are affect by test anxiety. And that number appears to be on the rise. What have you seen in your classrooms?
Tests have always mattered. Today we are in an environment where they matter even more. We all adapt to our surroundings differently. But young students are particularly vulnerable and in tune to their surroundings. Once TA is part of a student’s life, it can be a life-long problem unless they learn a new way of thinking. With some knowledge and some unique programs, we can help students and make a difference for everyone in school!
Even with adequate preparation, test anxiety can affect students. In many cases it is what the student believes and says about themselves that reinforces the the fear and anxiety. Can anyone thing of some other reasons?
Students with a strong sense of efficacy are more likely to challenge themselves with difficult tasks and be intrinsically motivated. These students will put forth a high degree of effort in order to meet their commitments, and attribute failure to things that are in their control, rather than blaming external factors. Self-efficacious students also recover quickly from setbacks and ultimately, are likely to achieve their personal goals. Students with low self-efficacy, on the other hand, believe they cannot be successful and thus are less likely to make a concerted, extended effort and may consider challenging tasks as threats that are to be avoided. Thus, students with poor self-efficacy have low aspirations that may result in disappointing academic performances becoming part of a self-fulfilling feedback cycle. Confidence can go a long ways into overcoming test anxiety. ( Bandura ( more info ) [Margolis and McCabe, 2006]
Like a snow ball rolling down a hill, the student’s thought process involved in TA becomes focused more on self rather than the test or the task at hand, like studying. Thoughts of failure or low performance dominate the thinking. At this point, the offer of a reward for a good grade only heightens the anxiety as the student already feels he or she will lose.
The experience of test anxiety is best understood as a combination of fear and confusion. The pendulum can swing back and forth rapidly between these two states. There is a loss of focus and an inability to process. A student experiencing TA CAN NOT work at his or her personal best.
We have all seen some of these signs. The important thing is to understand that these are signs of a significant problem. A problem that can effect a student for life if we don’t do something to help overcome it. Would someone please share a story of the worst case of TA you have seen?
TA does not just affect performance during the actual test. It affects the quality of all the work the student is doing. The student with TA cannot think clearly about preparation. After all. “What is the point anyway?” “ The test will be too hard.” “ I am afraid I will forget.” And of course after the test, poor results only set the student up for another round of TA in the future.
TA is destructive because it actually affects a system of the brain. The working memory is a brain system that is used in test taking. It is also a system that is involved in anxiety. Have you ever been in an exam and could not think of an answer? And then when you left the exam you said to yourself, ” I knew that! Why couldn’t I remember?” Well it was probably because your working memory was overloaded. There is only so much bandwidth there. It can be filled with worry or with information needed to complete a task like a test.
You may have thought that you were the only one with a voice in your head…You ARE the only one with YOUR voice in your head! And what you say matters! That voice labels people and experiences as good and bad, fun or sad. So once the voice starts telling you that you are a poor test taker, guess what? You are. And you probably will be for life. That is why we must make young students aware of what they are saying to themselves. They need to be encouraged to be their own best cheerleaders.
Test anxiety has many sources - the student, teacher and parents just to name three. Here are a few of items where teachers may add to TA. Of all these the most is perhaps the last. Our goal in any test situation is for each student to test to his or her own personal best. Reward great test preparation and effort…not results. It’s good to be aware of this list and check yourself.
It is natural for every parent to want his or her child to test at the top of the class, and if you ask any parent his or her child is one of the best and the brightest. And that is the way it should be. Parents should be encouraged not to focus on test scores (results) but on effort in preparation and doing one’s best. Parents need to be reminded that how a student feels about a test can determine test success as much as what the student knows.
The list on this slide is directly related to a student’s self-efficacy and the self-talk that the student is manufacturing. A student’s present reality is a reflection of his or her past experiences. So helping a student overcome test anxiety is an inside job that includes changing the self-voice as well as increasing confidence.
From 30 thousand feet this is how we help students overcome test anxiety. In the cognitive realm, we improve self talk (that voice in the head) and their ability to focus. In the emotional realm, we must help them learn how to relax, become desensitized to test-taking, and know how to manage their anxiety. That is a tall order. Fortunately we have some help.
The Mooloos Test Day program is designed to help students from the 2 nd to 5 th grades develop positive attitudes about test taking and test to their personal best. It is a school-wide program to help elevate TA. It is directly supported by the psychological literature that is available. It addressed those cognitive and emotional interventions mentioned on the previous slide. Let’s look at a few elements of the program and identify what each addresses.
As an intervention for TA the Mooloos Test Day animated story serves as an intervention on several levels. It introduces relaxation techniques, anxiety management, and empowerment through preparation. The story introduces the concept that games and test are very much the same, reframing and redefining what a test is and what it represents. Students become easily engaged as the story is fun and entertaining.
Self-talk as we have learned can define our experiences. It plays a major role in promoting test anxiety in students. This animated story provides students with an example of good and bad self talk and the results of both. Students can easily relate to stick figure Margaret as they learn that they, too, need to hear positive self-talk!
The “You Be A Test Maker “activity is part of the systematic desensitization of taking a test. Student get to be test makers. It becomes more game-like as they share tests with their friends and study partners. This activity also starts the critical thinking of what are the properties of a good test question. In other words, by creating tests they learn what is typically on test (such as main idea, details, and vocabulary meaning using context clues).
This activity empowers the student to take control of their schedule and commit to a plan. These steps to “take control” are critical in minimizing test anxiety. This is a tool that can help teacher and students focus on preparation rather than outcome. When this activity is completed multiple times throughout the year in preparation for tests, students develop the habits needed to plan and prepare effectively for all tests – including the high stakes tests given at the end of the year.
One of the approaches to changing a students “mind” about test is to label them differently. Here is an example of a game and as you can see it is labeled a ‘game.” And if you will recall the ”Count Down to Game Day” was a count down to Game Day. This is not to diminish the importance of test. This relabeling makes a test and test prep more accessible – especially to the students who experience the most test anxiety – as they typically have a desire to experience a game …especially a fun, challenging one! Take a few minutes and become a gamer yourself! You may discover what research is showing - Successful garners must focus, have patience, develop a willingness to delay gratification, and prioritize scarce resources. In other words, they must think!
The readers theater is a unique opportunity for peer-to-peer learning. The older students are now the teachers. During rehearsal they will be reminded and challenged about what to include in their program. The 2 nd and 3 rd graders will receive tips from the peers they respect and emulate.
Memory is a mental system that receives, stores, organizes, alters and recovers information from sensory input (Coon, 1997). Research has shown memory to be affected by many different factors. One of these factors is music, which has been found to stimulate parts of the brain. Many studies have demonstrated that music enhances the memory. Music has also been found to reduce stress and aid relaxation. The Mooloos songs were specifically written to not only stimulate the brain and enhance memory but to also remind students of key ways to reduce test anxiety.
Test anxiety affects everyone in education. It lowers student performance and test scores. It can produce in students an anxiety that can have life long effects. It it up to us to utilize all the tools at hand to make sure test anxiety is not part of our students’ test experience. Making the Mooloos program a habit for our students can help us continue to develop a school culture that assures our students and their parents that we go the extra mile to help every child do and be his or her very best! Thank you for your immense effort in establishing and promoting this positive culture!
Test Anxiety A Drag on Performance Anxiety can account for A 12% deviation in scores Affecting over 40% of all students
Test Anxiety <ul><li>Some anxiety is normal during testing situations. </li></ul><ul><li>Excessive anxiety is when it affects test performance —before, during, and after testing. </li></ul><ul><li>Previous estimates of TA of 20% - 30% of </li></ul><ul><li>school-aged students is now higher as recent years have yielded tests with even higher stakes for students, teachers, and administrators. </li></ul>
Test Anxiety (TA) <ul><li>TA is part of “evaluation” or “performance” anxiety. </li></ul><ul><li>Previous research suggests that TA begins in 3 rd /4 th grades, but now it’s likely to start earlier by 2 nd grade and can continue throughout life . </li></ul><ul><li>As testing become more and more “high stakes” for adults, students with TA will be more affected. </li></ul><ul><li>Without interventions, many students do not overcome TA even as adults. </li></ul><ul><li>But…intervention will make a difference (especially in elementary school as testing habits and attitudes are formed)! </li></ul>
Some Common Reasons for Test Anxiety (Even with Preparation) <ul><li>Students become anxious at the thought of </li></ul><ul><li>taking a test and convince themselves </li></ul><ul><li>that they will fail (low self-efficacy). </li></ul><ul><li>They panic because the questions on the test don't look reasonably close to what was studied in class or at home. </li></ul><ul><li>It may be due to negative test taking experience, a negative attitude about testing, or a combination. </li></ul><ul><li>Students become more anxious due to anxiety of teachers and parents. </li></ul><ul><li>These common reasons are exaggerated in students with special needs who may lack confidence and skills: poor readers, under developed motor skills, etc. </li></ul>
A Word About Self-Efficacy <ul><li>Self-efficacy is commonly defined as the belief in one's capabilities to achieve a goal or an outcome. I.e. If you think you are not going to be successful OR if you think you’ll likely fail at something that would affect your engagement and effort of an activity. </li></ul><ul><li>It’s important to raise students’ efficacy. </li></ul><ul><li>It’s possible because self-efficacy is a perception! </li></ul>
Understanding Test Anxiety Cognitive Aspects <ul><li>WORRY </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Excessive thinking about upcoming test </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Concerns about consequences of failure </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Worry that own ability is inadequate </li></ul></ul><ul><li>SELF-PREOCCUPATION </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Self talk becomes self-focused instead of task oriented </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Believes one has fewer positive self attributes </li></ul></ul>
Understanding Test Anxiety The Experience <ul><li>MIND INERFERENCE </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Students get caught up in thoughts that serve no purpose and interfere with processing information (e.g., spending 60% of mental energy on test, and 40% on other thoughts) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Students obsess about the time left on test </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Inability to leave unsolved test items </li></ul></ul>
Understanding Test Anxiety Emotionality Aspects <ul><li>PHYSIOLOGICAL REACTIONS </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Physical responses include </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Increased heart rate </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sweaty palms </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Shaking </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Needing to urinate </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Cold clammy hands </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Minimal signs can trigger more intense reactions </li></ul></ul>
TA works at 3 levels <ul><li>Study or Preparation level </li></ul><ul><ul><li>TA affects effective & efficient use of time/strategies and overall processing of information </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Test taking level </li></ul><ul><ul><li>TA interferes with retrieval of </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>information and usage of available </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>mental energy </li></ul></ul><ul><li>After testing level </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Leaves student feeling deflated and uncertain and affects future endeavors </li></ul></ul>
The Working Memory and Test Anxiety <ul><li>Working memory refers to a brain system that provides temporary storage and manipulation of the information necessary for such complex cognitive tasks as language comprehension, learning, and reasoning. </li></ul><ul><li>It is also involved with anxiety. </li></ul><ul><li>There is limited bandwidth. </li></ul>
Self-Talk And Test Anxiety <ul><li>Self-Talk is a pattern of thinking that manifests itself in what we say to ourselves in our own minds. </li></ul><ul><li>This steady stream of words can be positive or negative. </li></ul><ul><li>What we say to ourselves determines how we view each experience and the world. </li></ul><ul><li>The voice that is developed in elementary school can affect beliefs and achievements for a lifetime. </li></ul>
Teacher Contribution to TA <ul><li>Over-emphasis on competition </li></ul><ul><li>Significant emphasis placed on ranking of students </li></ul><ul><li>Unconscious connection of test results with students’ self-worth </li></ul><ul><li>Public display of test results </li></ul><ul><li>In this era, constant talk about test and its impact </li></ul><ul><li>Teacher’s own anxiety </li></ul><ul><li>Praise test results - not the effort in preparation and doing one’s best </li></ul>
Parent Contribution to TA <ul><li>(Unrealistic) high expectation </li></ul><ul><li>Low support for positive achievement </li></ul><ul><li>Constant emphasis on high performance </li></ul><ul><li>Comparison of child’s performance with others </li></ul><ul><li>Modeling from own anxiety </li></ul>
Student Contribution to TA <ul><li>Being unprepared </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Poor study and test-taking skills </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Procrastination and delays in getting ready </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Previous negative experiences build on themselves </li></ul><ul><li>“ Performance Goal” orientation – pressure to reach a specific level or score </li></ul>
Helping Students <ul><li>Cognitive Interventions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Cognitive-Behavioral Modification (self-talk) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Attentional Training </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Emotionality Interventions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Relaxation Techniques </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Systematic Desensitization </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Anxiety Management Training </li></ul></ul>
The Mooloos Test Day <ul><li>The Mooloos Test Day is a full curriculum of activities, stories, and games designed to eliminate TA in elementary students. </li></ul><ul><li>It supports good testing habits and attitudes that will last a life time. </li></ul><ul><li>It builds confidence and self esteem. </li></ul><ul><li>It helps every student perform to his or her personal best. </li></ul>
The Mooloos Test Day Movie <ul><li>This story sets the stage. It helps students identify test anxiety and understand what it is. </li></ul><ul><li>They discover what can be done to overcome these feelings. </li></ul><ul><li>The story personifies anxiety, making it easier for young students to focus corrective behaviors and eliminate anxious feelings. </li></ul>
The Little Bird Sang <ul><li>This four-minute story video makes students aware of self-talk and how important it is. </li></ul><ul><li>The story gives them a frame of reference, showing the results of good and bad self-talk. </li></ul><ul><li>The activities allow the teacher to integrate positive self-talk into every day class activities. </li></ul>
You Be A Test Maker Students read and listen to stories. Afterwards they become test makers using the Mooloos test builder program to create and print out tests they can give to their study partners. Students are always taking test but seldom, if ever, get to make a test.
Count Down To Game Day Students create a 10-day count down to an important test by building a personalized schedule to include bed time, positive self-talk, nutrition, reading practice, and exercise.
Animated Test Games <ul><li>Students play animated games that are fun and at the same time reinforce tests as games and test preparation knowledge. These types of games assist students with attention, sensory integration, and visual processing. </li></ul><ul><li>Research recognizes the value of games as a source of cognitive development. Gaming can exercise the mind the way physical activity exercises the body. </li></ul>
4 th - 5 th Grade Readers Theater <ul><li>The 4 th and/or 5 th grade present a play to the second and third grade students. The play features great test takers and their success tips. </li></ul>
Mooloos Test Day Music <ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The Mooloos Test Day songs are easy and fun to sing. They support good test taking attitudes and behaviors. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>WARNING: They can become habit forming! </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
Final Comments <ul><li>Test Anxiety will not go away, especially nowadays! </li></ul><ul><li>We each have a part in helping students overcome test anxiety and teaching every student how to do his or her best especially when under stress. </li></ul><ul><li>Combination of cognitive, emotional, and skill focused programs work best. </li></ul><ul><li>In this era of high-stake testing, TA programs should be integrated into the school culture. </li></ul>
References <ul><li>Ergene, T., (2003). Effective interventions on test anxiety reduction. School Psychology International, 24 (3 ), 313-329. </li></ul><ul><li>Stipek, D., (2002). Motivation to Learn. Integrating Theory and Practice (4th ed.).Boston: Allyn & Bacon. </li></ul><ul><li>Supon, V., (2004). Implementing strategies to assist test-anxious students. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 31( 4), 292-297 </li></ul><ul><li>Some slides were modified from: </li></ul><ul><li>Julie Vidal, Presentation as SP intern, El Segundo SD. </li></ul><ul><li>Stephanie Domzalski, Debbie Glezer, Diane Huynh, Jennifer Walsh. 2 nd Year SP Cohort. Presentation at 05 CASP convention. </li></ul><ul><li>Brian P. Leung, Ph.D, presentation School Psychology Program Loyola Marymount University </li></ul>